Lemonade for Life: A Transformative Tool for Change


Research is clear that the effects of negative early childhood experiences don’t end when a child becomes an adult. The more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that a child experiences, the greater the risk for health problems, mental illness, and substance abuse as an adult (Felitti et al., 1998). Although we can’t rewrite the beginning of our story, we can change the way it ends. Building resiliency skills, engendering hope, and changing mindset are ways that practitioners and communities can break the cycle and transfer of negative early childhood experiences from one generation to the next.

Lemonade for Life is an interactive training that was developed by researchers and practitioners in Iowa and Kansas who felt an urgency to use what we know about ACEs to help families understand patterns in their lives. Universally, parents want a better life for their children. Lemonade for Life builds on this commonality and helps families understand that they are strong and already possess some resiliency skills. The six-hour training provides professionals with techniques to start conversations with families about their past experiences with the goal of helping them understand that they have the power to change the path for their children. Professionals receive tools to use with parents to develop a Resiliency Plan and to better understand early brain development and how they can influence their child’s early experiences.

Contrary to what some believe, these conversations are not invasive or traumatic. Parents often feel validated and understood after talking about their early experiences. Practice helps professionals become more comfortable in having what we fear is going to be a difficult conversation.

Hope is a powerful antidote to negative early childhood experiences and has the power to change neurochemistry (Groopman, 2004). We, as professionals, play an essential role in creating a culture of hope and fostering a mindset that lets families know that we believe in them. Everyone needs a champion.

To learn more about getting your own lemonade stand and helping families tap into their own power to change, visit lemonadeforlife.org.

Jackie Counts
Director of the Center for Public Partnerships & Research
University of Kansas